Decisions: Nov. 7, 2007

New trial ordered over Tom Leykis claim

New trial ordered over Tom Leykis claim
Case: Carpenter v. Westwood One
Court: Alaska Supreme Court
Date: Oct. 26

Facts: "Shock" radio host Tom Leykis read a listener's complaint letter on the air, while interjecting derogatory and sexually explicit remarks about the listener, Karen Carpenter. (Leykis said, among other things, "Maybe if this woman had gotten laid in the last 50 years ... she wouldn't be complaining so much." A trial judge summarily dismissed Carpenter's defamation and false light privacy claims and a jury found for Leykis and his producer, Westwood One, on emotional distress and "intrusion upon seclusion" claims. Carpenter was awarded $5,042 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages against Westwood One for intentional destruction of the tape of the show.

Holding: The court affirmed the summary judgment ruling, finding that Leykis stated opinions not facts. But it ordered a new trial because of instructional error on the claim that Leykis inflicted emotional distress on Carpenter by inviting his listeners to harass her and make her life a "living hell." "(T)here was sufficient evidence to permit a jury to find that Leykis's words in issuing his so-called 'call-to-arms' departed from the bounds of protected speech," the lead opinion said.

Attorneys of Record: Ray Brown and Linda O'Bannon of Dillon & Findley in Anchorage, Alaska, and Jack McGee of Juneau, Alaska, for Carpenter; Leslie Longenbaugh and Merrill Lowden of Simpson Tillinghast Sorensen & Longenbaugh in Juneau, Alaska, for Westwood One and Leykis.

To read the full decision, click here:

Diddy denied new trial
Case: Bridgeport Music v. Justin Combs Publishing
Court: 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Date: Oct. 17

Facts: The title song of late rapper Notorious B.I.G.'s 1994 album "Ready to Die" included a sample from the song "Singing in the Morning," released by the funk group the Ohio Players in 1972. Bad Boy Records, the label founded by Sean "Diddy" Combs, had not obtained a license to use "Singing in the Morning" so the song's copyright holders, Bridgeport Music and Westbound Records, sued for infringement. A jury awarded $733,878 in damages to Bridgeport and punitive damages to Westbound of $3.5 million. The trial judge modified the verdict, ruling that Bridgeport should receive $150,000 in statutory damages and Westbound should receive $366,939 in actual damages.

Holding: The court denied a new trial on liability, finding the jury was not prejudiced by plaintiffs' counsel, who said of the defendants in closing arguments, "This is a joke. They think they can come down here to Nashville, Tenn., and pull a fast one on the six of you." But it said the verdict improperly included prejudgment and compound interest and the "Defendant's conduct was not so excessive as to justify a $3.5 million punitive damage award."

Attorneys: Jay Bowen of Bowen Riley Warnock & Jacobson in Nashville for Bridgeport Music and Westbound Records; Richard Busch of King & Ballow in Nashville for Bad Boy Records and Universal Records.

To read the full decision, click here: